"Turnips, Alsace" (2007) by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery
NEW! Click esquire.com
to go to my new column at Esquire Magazine.
ESQUIRE'S BEST NEW RESTAURANTS OF 2008 by John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER: The Four Seasons by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: The Mazzei Family Sees the Future of Tuscan Wines by John Mariani
by Jacqueline Church
COPPER RIVER, ALASKA
your last dinner party. Chances are “sustainability” came up in
conversation. Or, it will in the next one you attend.
Foodies, writers, and chefs have refused to let the topic of
sustainable foods fade away. The daily stream of news about
environmental disasters threatens our ability to enjoy a good meal,
guilt-free. If the news doesn’t cast a pall on dinner, a vigilant
fellow diner may. So common are the pronouncements and moral tirades
these days, it seems that people have forgotten how to be good company,
how to break bread with joy.
The Trouble with Salmon
in river city. Any spawning river,
that is. The trouble is the fish are disappearing. Actually, that’s the
easy headline. The truth, as usual, is a bit more nuanced. (Cue the
angry emails. It’s okay, I learned through the foie fights to ignore
them.) There have been alarming drops in several runs in Oregon and
Washington. There have also been good runs in other areas. And, there
are communities that depend on our love of salmon to survive.
Taras Grescoe’s book Bottomfeeder (Bloomsbury) is causing a
stir in the food world, and sustainable food advocates are mostly
measured in response. The subtitle, How
to Eat Ethically in a World
of Vanishing Seafood, indicates
part of the problem people have with the book. Ethics and food are too
complex for simple solutions. Forgoing salmon, tuna and shrimp (even
assuming this were possible) doesn’t change the whole food production
and delivery system. It doesn’t offer a global solution or even a local
one. It doesn’t enforce sustainable fishing practices. Top of the food
chain fish like salmon are the ones that Grescoe would have us forgo
➔ Here are five things
you might not have known about wild Alaskan salmon
the November issue of Esquire
I have written my annual round-up of the "20 Best New Restaurants of
2008" in America. As I note in the introduction, For
the Esquire’s 75 years, I have been ferreting out and heralding
America’s best restaurants--the chronicle of an era that saw France’s la nouvelle cuisine
translated into the New American Cuisine, then
fusion, global, and molecular cuisine. I’ve chowed down $55
hamburgers, olive oil ice cream, chocolate-flavored beer, oceans of
foamed sauces, and lobster tartare. I’ve seen the rise of tea
sommeliers and fromageurs,
the decline of Prime beef, the demise of
smoking in restaurants, and the near-total disappearance of tablecloths.
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR--L20, Chicago
CHEF OF THE YEAR--Dominique Crenn, Luce, San Francisco
Convivio, NYC; Bar Boulud, NYC; Bar Blanc, NYC; Kampuchea, NYC; Scampo, Boston; Voice, Houston; Restaurant at Mansion on Turtle Creek,
Dallas; Takashi, Chicago; Mercat, Chicago; Plumed Horse, Saratoga, CA; Palate Food + Wine, Glendale,
CA; Corbett’s, An American Place--Louisville;
Pacific Time, Miami; Zahav, Philadelphia; Distrito, Philadelphia; Terra, Tesuque, NM; Spruce, San Francisco.
OF RESTAURANTS VISITED: 115
MILES FLOWN: 35,000
OF NEW RESTAURANTS WITH EAR-SHATTERING DECIBEL LEVELS: 55
OF NECKTIES RUINED: 3
decade ago I co-authored the book The Four Seasons: A History of America's
Premier Restaurant (you
may order it from by clicking on its cover at the end of this
newsletter), with Alex von Bidder, who, with Julian Niccolini,
have owned the famous restaurant since 1995. The book was as much a
social history of New York's very mutable dining scene from the 1950s
to the 21st century as it was of the restaurant, through long stretches
when The Four Seasons,
which had opened in 1959, was losing money as recessions and disasters
took their toll on the city. That it has survived in all its
original glory--set within the Seagram Building designed by Mies van
Rohe and designed by Philip Johnson and Bill Pahlmann--is an
astonishment, and the fact that it is still considered one of the
quintessential restaurants of New York is testament to all those who
kept it going from the early years when Restaurant Associates ran it,
then later Paul Kovi and Tom Margittai, then von Bidder and Niccolini.
The Four Seasons is
open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat.
FROM THE WINE CELLAR
After Six Hundred Years Tuscany’s Mazzei Wine Family Branches Out in the 21st Century
family that gave Chianti its name back in the 14th century has
entered the 21st with an array of wines they are proud to call, simply,
Tuscan. In doing so the Mazzei family, which by marriage gained the
Castello Fonterutoli estate (above)
in 1435, is part of a movement to expand
the scope and style of Tuscan wines by declining to obey the strictures
of the Denominazione di Controllata
Garantita (DOCG) rules that state
Chianti can only contain certain grapes and come from distinct,
In London, Golda Bechal, who died at 89, willed $20 million to her favorite Chinese restaurant’s owners, Kim Sing Man and his wife Bee Lian, without leaving a penny to her relatives—who, of course, sued the estate contending she was demented and won back $2 million, but then had to pay court costs of $800,000.
WELL, LA-DEE-DAH, LA-DEE DAH . . . DAH
“This love letter to the legendary bars of some of Paris’s most luxurious (and expensive) hotels is not to suggest that I prefer to lap my gin from Baccarat crystal. And as compelling as I find the cultural lore of early-20th-century Paris, I don’t go to the bar at the Hôtel de Crillon to try to coax Teddy Roosevelt out of the woodwork. If I were only after luxury and history, I’d go read a book in the Louis Vuitton store. The secret is that this cluster of Right Bank monuments holds, and often hides, lounges that provide singular, decadent, theatrical sets for a magical night out in Paris, where opulence and silly fun can go hand in white-gloved hand.”—Julia Langbein, “We'll Always Have Cocktails,” Gourmet (October, 2008).
TO ALL PUBLICISTS: Owing to the amount of
material sent to this newsletter regarding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and
New Year's dinners--many of which are only announcements as to price
fixed dinners--it is impossible for me to include any but the most
unusual of events for those holidays in Quick Bytes.
* In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness month, NYC’s Magnolia Bakery is proud to support
the Susan G. Komen Foundation with their “Power of the Cupcake” fund.
Specially made during the month of October, Magnolia offers Pink Ribbon
cupcakes decorated with a custom-designed Pink Ribbon de-con, with 50
cents of each sale going to the Foundation.
* For those who want to savor what China Grill has been
all about for
the past 21 years (in NY and 13 years in Miami Beach), China Grill
South Beach introduces a ‘classics tasting menu’ offered for
dinner at $69 pp. Call 305- 534-2211.
* From now until Election Day Chef Steve Chiappetti
from Chicago’s Viand will be
doing his Democrat vs. Republican menu. Guests can partake in either
prix fixe menu, at $20.08. In addition, guests will receive a ballot to
select their preferred candidate. Should that candidate win, the ballot
can be brought back to Viand, where guests will receive 50% off their
next meal at the restaurant. Call 312-255-8505; www.viandchicago.com.
* Through Oct. 17, Giovanni,
in conjunction with the NYC Wine & Food Festival, pairs 5
courses with 5 wines, offered exclusively to Amex cardholders at
$80 pp. Call 212-262-2828; www.giovanni-restaurant.com.
* In NYC, Brasserie
Cognac de Monsieur Ballon, will host a special Cognac School on
Saturdays beginning Oct. 18 and ending November 8. $60 pp.,
$100 for two. Call 212-757-3600.
* On Oct. 18 along the Beaches of South Walton, FL, Brew-Ha-Ha on the Boulevard, in
Grand Park will showcase 125+imported and micro-brewed beers from 25+
countries, along with a walk-about food tasting from Grand Boulevard’s
destination restaurants – Cantina Laredo Gourmet Mexican Food,
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Kilwin’s Chocolates, Fudge
& Ice Cream, Mitchell’s Fish Market, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and
Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café. $25 in advance and $30 day
of the event at all Wine World locations. Call 850-654-5929;
* On Oct. 23 in Dallas, Aurora
will hold a 5-course ZD Wine Dinner at $150 pp. Call 214-528-9400.
• On Oct. 23 in Old Mt Pleasant,
SC, The Old Village Post House
holds its next 4-course wine dinner by Frank Lee, Executive Chef and
Jim Walker, Chef de Cuisine, featuring Bravante Vineyards, with wine
pairings by Patrick Emerson, Wine and Beverage Director. Call
• On Oct. 26 NYC’s Tabla will kick off its 10 Year
Anniversary with a special Diwali feast by Chef Floyd Cardoz, served
family style. As is customary with the holiday, Tabla will hand out
boxes of Indian sweets as parting gifts. $89 pp.
* On Oct. 26 in Lockport, IL, at Tallgrass, Chef Robert Burcenski and
Maitre‘d Thomas Alves will host a special 4-course Fall Harvest Dinner
at $45 pp, with a 3-glass wine flight for an additional $30. Call
* On Oct. 28 in NYC Capsouto
Freres celebrates its
28th anniversary with a 3-Course Prix Fixe Menu for $28 pp.
Each guest will also receive a complimentary glass of Yarden Brut
Sparkling Wine. Call 212-966-4900; www.capsoutofreres.com.
* On Oct. 28 in NYC, Eleven Madison Park and Champagne
will present an evening featuring a 6-course dinner from Chef Daniel
Humm, paired with wines of Champagne Jacques Selosse. $495 pp/
Dana Longiaru at 646-747-2586.
* On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 Charlie Palmer’s Aureole
in NYC celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a Special “20 Bites”
8-course tasting menu and wine pairing covering the favorite dishes
from the past two decades. $300 pp. Call 212-319-1660.
* On Nov. 2 Sassi
restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ, hosts a traditional Italian
festival called Festa di Maiale, or Festival of the Pig., with Italian
wine tasting, live musical entertainment, and indoor and outdoor
seating. $65 in advance and $75 the day of. Call (480) 502-9095. Visit
* On Nov. 3 in Los Angeles, Chef Neal Fraser and Grace Restaurant will host a
fundraising dinner for Careers through Culinary Arts Program .
$125 pp. Call 818-990-5542.
* On Nov. 6 The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco announces An Evening with Michael Silacci, winemaker for Opus One Vineyards and 6-course dinner created by Ron Siegel. $395 pp. Call 415-773-6168.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: AFFORDABLE ADVENTURES; IN SEARCH OF VALUE: A WEEKEND GETAWAY IN PENNSYLVANIA; IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE ODYSSEY
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contrinbutor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). THIS WEEK: On the Road: Tampa-Sarasota
Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have
Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support
of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton
and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and
global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF
will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed
advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding,
healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and
children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new
worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement. This week: Keys
to the Florida Keys.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.